Martín Rojas Dietrich joins South Bay Musical Theatre for the first time, as director of the classic romantic comedy SHE LOVES ME, by the author of Cabaret and the composers of Fiddler on the Roof. In this video interview, he gives some background on how the 1937 play Parfumerie evolved into three movies and a Broadway musical that has seen two award-winning revivals. He describes the plot: two people who quarrel at work unwittingly fall in love as anonymous pen pals. He also talks about how the music elevates the show beyond the play or movie versions, and cites subtle similarities to the violin arrangements we hear in Fiddler on the Roof. Martín also discusses his collaborative directing style and maintains that, even though the source material is over 80 years old, it’s still relevant today.
Enjoy the interview and then get your tickets to come see the show at the Saratoga Civic Theater Jan. 25 – Feb. 15, 2020. Find complete info at southbaymt.com/shows/ticket-sales/she-loves-me/ or by calling 408-266-4734.
Watch the interview here or scroll down to read the transcript.
Transcript of Interview with Martin Rojas Dietrich
Hello. My name is Martín Rojas Dietrich and I am the director for South Bay Musical Theatre’s production of She Loves Me.
What do you love about the show?
There are so many things I love about this show. I love that it’s a very much– It’s a very simple love story, but it’s a very unconventional musical in the sense that the songs are direct continuation of the scene or they are the innermost thoughts of characters. No one just breaks into song for no reason. And that’s one of the things I love about the show. And my approach to directing the show has been very much to treat it like a play. And we have spent an awful lot of time really treating the text as a play with songs.
How did this story become a musical?
So, one of the things that I really love about this show is that it’s– the material has truly stood the test of time. This first was a play written by Miklos Laszlo in 1937 called Parfumerie. And then the material has been turned into three different films, including The Shop Around The Corner, In The Good Old Summertime, and also You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. And also was turned into a musical adaptation in the 60s. And it’s also been revived on Broadway twice. I have a soft spot for this work because I’m kind of a hopeless romantic and I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to direct this truly charming romantic story.
What’s the show about?
At the base of the show is a very simple love story. It’s two people who in real life can’t stand each other but they are secretly in love with each other through letters. They are both members of a lonely-hearts club as they would have it in the 1930s. And part of the journey that happens through the show is seeing them evolve and seeing all of the things that they go through while they are working together in this perfume shop and also how they come to realize that they are both in love with each other.
How does the music elevate the show?
If you take She Loves Me and you take the songs away, you have a wonderful play. The book was written by the wonderful Joe Masteroff, who also wrote Cabaret, which is also my favorite musical. Bock and Harnick have written this incredible score and it’s a cross between a little bit of musical theater and a bit of opera. So you have a little bit of both to enjoy when you come see the show. And again, the songs really propel the story about who these characters are and you get to see, a lot of the times, their innermost thoughts.
Is the music similar to Fiddler on the Roof?
Well, one of the brilliant things about them is that they are able to go from genre to genre. The score to Fiddler is very different — although you do hear a little bit of similar tendencies with the violin but they are really, I think, inspired by the setting of the piece, which is 1930s Budapest.
Is the show as much fun to produce as it is to watch?
I can’t speak for my wonderful cast, but I know I have personally never laughed so much during rehearsals. As a director, I am really enjoying coming to work every night. It’s been a joy really discovering who these characters are and I really do love my cast.
What was your approach as a director?
So I really wanted to direct this show like a play. And I said this from the day– from my first rehearsal. I said I really want to treat this like a play in the sense that I want real, raw, complicated human beings. I didn’t want anyone to be a caricature or sort of that musical theater genre of character. I really wanted real human beings, and that was our starting point. And then I also love collaborating with my actors. And the most fun I have is when we just get to sit in a room and discover together.
How do you inspire your actors?
So I like to come to work prepared. I have a clear vision of what I want to accomplish but I think the great breakthrough is when I work with my actors and they discover things and seeing that discovery is the greatest joy for me.
(singing) Ice cream! He brought me ice cream! Vanilla ice cream! Imagine that!
You know, I can give you your roadmap. Tell you what point A and point Z are, but how we get there is… infinite variety of ways to get there. So, I think really my directing style is collaboration.
How is the show relevant to today?
The two key figures in the show, for me, are the two women that work in this Parfumerie shop: Amalia and Ilona. They are working in a male-dominated workplace, and we have been discovering – even though it’s really a love story between Georg and Amalia, we spent a lot of time really focusing on these strong, independent women. And we can very much relate to that, too, today.
Why should we come to She Loves Me?
Why should people come to see She Loves Me? Well, it’s a truly delightful, romantic love story. It’s got wonderful dancing. It’s got a dynamite cast– you should hear their voices. I hope you come hear their voices! It’s got a wonderful set and orchestra, and it’s a truly wonderful night out in the theater. So, I hope you’ll consider coming to see She Loves Me.
Any final thoughts?
I’m really grateful to every single person involved with this show. I truly do love this cast. They have been nothing but a joy and I am very grateful to everyone at SBMT for being so welcoming to me. This my first show directing here, and I truly had a blast.
(laughing) Well, we hope everybody comes and sees it!